Player wages have eaten up most of the money involved in international transfer deals during the past two years, according to FIFA TMS figures.
Its Transfer Matching System (TMS) estimates that since 2013 some 57% of funds have gone into stars’ pockets.
Actual transfer fees have accounted for just 41% of the cash, and agent commissions the remaining 2%.
Football clubs in Europe account for four-fifths of the total money spent on wages in those global deals.
The new figures refer to international transfers from one country to another, and do not cover “domestic” transfers between two clubs in the same nation.
In cash terms it means that over the past two years, from international deals, $16.5bn (£10.8bn) has gone on player salaries, $12bn in transfer fees, and $700m to player agents.
“Most of the transfers discussed in the media involve large transfer fees, but in reality, only 13% of all worldwide transfers involve the payment of a fee,” said Fifa TMS General Manager Mark Goddard.
“Salaries, though, are part of every single contract.”
English spending doubled
Increasingly lucrative TV deals have given top-flight English clubs the financial muscle to bring in a plethora of global stars from overseas.
Big signings this summer have included Manchester City’s purchase of Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg for £52m and Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia for £32m, while rivals Manchester United bought Anthony Martial from Monaco for £36m and Memphis Depay from PSV for £25m.
And FIFA’s analysis of the spending on international transfers during the recently ended summer transfer window shows that English clubs spent a total of $996m (£653m) – more than double any other country.
Meanwhile French clubs spent $270m – a 65% increase on summer 2014, but Spanish clubs, another traditional home for glamour players, particularly from South America, saw summer spending decrease by 23% on 2014, to $495m.
Those three nations, plus Germany and Italy, make up what are known as the “Big Five” European leagues.
These big five countries recorded a total of 1,340 incoming international transfers during this summer’s transfer window, an increase of 4% when compared with the same period in 2014.
And the total international transfer spending across these nations reached $2,396m, an increase of 2% on last year’s summer window, driven by increased spending in Italy as well as France.
Former Italian football club legend Gianluca Vialli, who starred for Sampdoria, Juventus, and Chelsea, said there were a number of reasons for the increased spending on transfers in Italy, a country where the football economy has been seen as stagnant compared with England or Germany.
“The Italian league has got better TV deals than it previously had, so there is more money available,” Mr Vialli told the BBC website at the Soccerex football conference in Manchester.
“But more importantly, I think the football clubs decided that to come out of this ‘football recession’ it would be better for them to invest in players.”
Other findings from Fifa’s analysis of international deals involving the Big Five leagues are that:
- The average transfer fee for an international transfer increased from $5.5m to $5.7m (up 4% on 2014)
- Total spending on agent commissions has grown this summer, to $158m, up 8% on last summer
- The average age of players engaged by the Big Five was 23 years and 9 months – one month younger than last year
Fifa’s TMS organisation uses modern electronic technology with the aim of making international football transfers more transparent and legally compliant.
Mr Goddard said the system also helped Fifa to gauge the size of the global football transfer industry, and how best to manage it.
For its latest report, Fifa has analysed data supplied to it from 6,500 clubs.
Following on after the heavy financial outlay from clubs in Europe on player wages, teams in the Asian confederation were the next highest spenders on salaries.
In a separate look at the European transfer market, Spanish-based sports business and marketing consultancy Prime Time Sport has released its report into summer player spending.
In a presentation at Soccerex, its chief executive Esteve Calzada said that all clubs, including the biggest in Europe, were now involved in selling players.
He said that previously it was certain teams, such as Porto or Southampton, who had a role in producing home-grown talent for sale to larger clubs on the continent.
“Player trading has now become normal across the board,” Mr Calzada said, noting that this was partly a result of Uefa’s financial fair play rules, which state that clubs – including the largest – should spend no more than the revenues they generate.
“[Bigger clubs] have to generate income, and find money to buy new players,” Mr Calzada added. “Big clubs will now pop up in the lists of the biggest sellers.
“All teams have got used to selling their best players.”
He said AS Monaco from the French league was the European leader in player sales income this summer, earning some €160m (£117m) – including cash from the sale of Martial to Manchester United.
However, Mr Calzada said that his team’s research showed that. for buying clubs, heavy investment in players did not always translate into immediate trophy success.
© 2015 BBC News | This article was written by Bill Wilson and first appeared in BBC News on the 8th of September 2015.